The Coolest Field Trip You’ll Ever Take

When an athletic, thrill-seeking millionaire builds a mansion hideaway on the outskirts of the city, stocking it with a technologically advanced fleet of cars, boats and airplanes along with trophies of his exploits, there’s a good chance he’s either Batman or a Vanderbilt. Meet William K. Vanderbilt II circa 1910.
Continue reading

Making Puppets Come Alive

If the Muppets are all you know of puppetry then this episode will be an eye opener. Beyond the antics of Kermit the Frog and earlier popular acts such as Kukla, Fran and Ollie lies a history of dedicated professionals intent on developing a distinct theater of puppetry. They have their own traditions and icons and yes, their own Stanislavski.
Continue reading

Bill and Pat Colson: The Art of Living

Bill Colson was a stand-out basketball player from Sayville High School (’47). In the Korean War he served as an Air Force cryptographer until, stricken by polio, he returned to the States paralyzed from the waist down. That’s where his story begins.

Sayville Basketball Team 1947

Sayville Basketball Team 1947

On this episode we talk with Pat Colson about Bill and his artwork as well as their lives, together and apart. Friends since high school, Pat and Bill followed a circuitous path to happiness. Along the way we discuss the Sayville of the 1940s, Bill’s paintings, his life in a wheelchair and the challenges of keeping lions as pets.

The Long Island Suffrage Playbook

Women in most states could still not vote at the turn of the last century. The suffrage movement was stalled and icons such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were dead. So what turned things around? How did the movement revitalize itself to the point that, by 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed and women’s suffrage was the law of the land? Part of the answer lies with two women from Long Island.

Continue reading

The Jewish Community on Long Island

Genealogist Rhoda Miller and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Long Island recently published Jewish Community of Long Island from Arcadia Press. The book tracks the development of Jewish communities across Long Island from the late 19th century through the 1970s.

Throughout the book Rhoda not only documents the rise of specific communities but also uncovers many personal stories. On this episode you’ll hear about aviation pioneer Chalres A. Levine, Rabbi Lehrer and his work with Jewish patients in Long Island’s state hospitals and the threatening presence of the Ku Klux Klan on the Island along with the German American Bund’s Camp Siegfried in Yaphank.

Jewish Community of Long Island

 

PODCAST UPDATE: Just wanted to let everyone know that we have been moving behind the scenes at the Project. We’ve moved from WordPress.com to WordPress.org which gives us the subtly streamlined URL longislandhistoryproject.org. No need to adjust your sets. If you’ve subscribed to the WordPress site, we’ll be gently migrating you over. This WordPress.com version will eventually fade into the sunset.

If you’re new to the Project, now would be a great time to subscribe in iTunes and/or subscribe to the blog using the form in the right-hand menu at our new site.

We’ve also changed our file hosting over to Libsyn and while there might be some tinkering going on in the background, new episodes will keep coming uninterrupted.

Further Research

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Old Mansions Never Die

George Davies’ younger days would be the envy of any boy. During the Great Depression in Oakdale, he and his brothers had the run of Pepperidge Hall, a giant 19th-century mansion in walking distance of a swimming hole and the Great South Bay. Plus they had a pet duck.

PepperidgeHall

George with his father Jack Davies in the courtyard of Pepperidge Hall. Photo courtesy of the Dowling College Archives & Special Collections.

On this episode you’ll hear excerpts of a talk George gave on Sept. 15, 2015 sponsored by the Dowling College Library and the Oakdale Historical Society. He describes life in the 1930s, adventures in the mansion, and nearby neighbors like Arthur K. Bourne and Louise Ockers. We’ll also find out if Dutch Schultz was hiding nearby.

PHstory

Many thanks to George for sharing these invaluable memories. Most of us think of the glory days of these mansions as the Gilded Age but many of them lived on through various incarnations. George gives us a glimpse into one of those periods when the glory had passed but there was still fun to be had and living to do.

Stream in the player above or download audio.

 

Further Research

5 Surprising Ways Historic Preservation Can Save Long Island

What better way to celebrate National Preservation Month than by interviewing Jason Crowley, Preservation Director of the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquties (SPLIA)?

Jason comes to Long Island by way of Vermont, Charleston, Columbia University and years of work on the front lines of preservation. You’ll hear his take on the unique challenges and opportunities the Island represents, with our complicated map of towns, villages and hamlets accompanied by preservation laws of varying degrees of strength and effectiveness. We’ll also go over many of the local, state and national preservation agencies that you’ll want to tap when it comes time to fight for a historic site.

Founded during the post-World War II building boom on Long Island, SPLIA works to preserve all aspects of Long Island’s built environment in conjunction with partners from the East River to Montauk. Headquartered in Cold Spring Harbor, they own additional historic sites in Lloyd Harbor, East Setauket and Sag Harbor.

Finally, Jason and Connie compare notes on strategies to preserve historic landmarks, particularly religious buildings and the surviving works of noted Sayville architect Isaac H. Green.

And keep an eye out for SPLIA’s #MyLongIslandLandmarks exhibit opening in June.

Stream in the player above or download audio.

Further Research

Long Island

City

State

National

 

Treading Clams

National Poetry Month is almost over but we have time for one more power ballad. This time, we’re looking over the body of work of Paul Bailey. Bailey was a newspaperman from Amityville (founder of the Amityville Sun) as well as the publisher of the Long Island Forum. His dedication to Long Island history ran deep as he was also president of the Suffolk County Historical Society and Suffolk County Historian. He wrote a syndicated column on Long Island History and was a sought-after public speaker on the topic.

So it’s no surprise that his posthumous book of poetry, Treading Clams (1965) is filled with light verse on all aspects of Long Island. Today we read through excerpts of three of the poems, “The Midnight Rides of Austin Roe,” “Shoes from the Sea,” and “When Prohibition Came.”

Born in 1885, Bailey actually spent some time out west before settling down to his newspaper career. He worked on cattle ranches and possibly in the movies – enough experience, at least, to fuel a number of Western stories that he wrote for pulps like Argosy later on. He also struck up a friendship at home with nearby neighbors Will Rogers and Fred Stone. Stone was an actor and comedian and the first person to play the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz (in the 1902 Broadway version).

Our reader today is Dr. Josh Gidding, Professor of English at Dowling College. Thanks, Josh! And we hope you’ve enjoyed our spelunking through poetry history. Make sure you check out our other Long Island Power Ballads and leave a comment on what you thought.

Stream in the player above or download audio.

Further Research

 

Writing the Rails

Back when men were men and railroads were railroads, Charles M. Murphy challenged a locomotive and lived to tell the tale. He rode behind a Long Island Railroad locomotive in 1899 and clocked a mile in under 58 seconds, earning him the immortal nickname Mile-a-Minute Murphy.

1899ad

Geneva Daily Times, Sept 2, 1899

 

On today’s episode we look back at Murphy’s accomplishment through the eyes of Si Tannhauser. Who was Si Tannhauser, you ask? Only the “poet laureate of Long Island” circa 1934. That’s when he published his ode to Murphy in the Leader Observer. Si was a ticket agent for the Long Island Railroad by day, poet by night.

The lives of both men brim with anecdote and pathos. Tannhauser survived the San Francisco earthquake as well as hardscrabble times that left him near blind, lame and half-deaf. Murphy went on to Vaudeville and the New York City Police department where, among other things, he wrestled down a runaway horse.

This episode is part of our celebration of National Poetry month and the reader of this particular Long Island power ballad is Rick Jackofsky of the Home Grown String Band. Many thanks, Rick! And check out our past ballads for more poetry/history mashups.

Stream in the player above or download audio.

Further Research

Audio Credits

 

 

 

“The Land of Rum and Romance”

We continue our celebration of National Poetry Month with our second Long Island power ballad from the past. This time out we are looking at “A Babylonish Ditty” by Frederick Swartwout Cozzens (writing as Richard Haywarde).

Frederick Swarthout Cozzzens. From The Knickerbocker Gallery, 1855.

Frederick Swartwout Cozzzens. From The Knickerbocker Gallery, 1855.

Few will remember New York wine merchant-turned poet Cozzens and his heyday as a humor writer in the mid 1800s (although you should try his Sparrowgrass Papers, something of a 19th-century prototype for the sticom Green Acres.) Fewer still will remember the Knickerbocker, the magazine where he cut his teeth. But that’s where, in 1850, he first published “A Babylonish Ditty,” a quick-trotting ode to a long gone summer romance.

Why Babylon? Well, the south shore of Long Island (“the merry old south side”) had a reputation that drew men out from New York City. Mostly they were merchants and lawyers, amateur sportsmen drawn to the abundant fish and game along the Great South Bay. They came by rail and stage coach and after a long day traipsing through the great outdoors, they retired to one of the many inns and taverns strung along the South Country Road (today’s Montauk Highway).

knick

Listen to Cozzens relive those hazy summer days and wonder to yourself how the “fickle” object of his affection viewed the whole affair. Many thanks to our guest reader, Steve Birkeland.

Stream in the player above or download audio.

Further Research

Audio Credits